#SXSW: Digital & Creative Collaboration

Posted by Mitchell Communications Group on March 16, 2015

SXSW Day 4

Today, our team examines marketing, digital, creativity, content development and collaboration from SXSW.

Jessica Dove, Digital Account Manager

During a panel discussion of media chief marketing officers, we examined how marketing's role is more than just pushing messages and driving sales. It's about bringing a brand to life and connecting with communities. Questions were posed to the panel covering topics of how data has changed marketing, how conversations are built and how to design stories that transcend a single channel. As the CMO's examined the industry, some trends and insights emerged.

Data - Marketers have access to real-time insights to drive immediate actions for brands. The immediate opportunity to react to what's not working is changing the face of marketing. We're now able to market to customers one-to-one because we know more about them as a user, what they like and what they want, and can personalize messages and offerings. Data also allows marketers to focus on niche markets to target consumers they know will drive action.

Relevance – It's important to understand your brand and audience to provide relevant messaging. It's no longer about distributing a large quantity of messages, but more about sending messages of impact. It's about the content and knowing what your audience wants on various platforms.

Understand Your Brand - Engaging in real-time conversations is a valuable marketing tactic. Empowering your employees to take calculated risks outside of the approval process allows for greater reactive content. To accept the risk, you have to make sure the conversation you're jumping into aligns with your brand and resonates with your audience.

Brent S. Gambill, Sr. Director, Digital & Social Media

From speakers to food to music and film, creativity comes in many forms at SXSW. Part of my creative experience has been engaging with entrepreneurs, workshops and attendees. On this day, I was immersed in the process of creativity with all three.

Taking a walk through the SXSW Trade Show, I asked entrepreneurs and developers about their creative process. For example, why create a robot you can control from your iPhone?


The answer, “Why not?” The logic we seek does not always exist. My follow-up question was about marketing the product. The creative energy behind the development of a product should be matched by the inspiration to brand and market a product. As I learned in the workshop Creativity on Demand, those components are mutually exclusive.

Creativity is the raw material for innovation. The foundation of deliberations for creative thinking is to diverge and converge. By diverging, we go for quantity, novelty and defer judgment. For convergence, we ask questions such as what is great or how do we solve problems. The goal is to foster creativity and allow the free thought of ideas to flow without critique. The best ideas may lead nowhere and the worst ideas may grow into something special.

Creativity is supposed to be playful and open. In Tina Fey’s book, Bossypants, she discusses how the phrase “Yes and” is an essential tool of improv. It is also a valuable tool for creative collaboration. Instead of saying, “Yes but,” we should be agreeing with “yes and” to ideas. The simple turn of the phrase fosters greater creative collaboration.

So what do you do with bad ideas? Search for the good in an idea. Flip the negative to a positive. Once some positive aspects are examined, begin asking questions about the potential issues. Instead of making declarative statements of what is perceived to be wrong about the idea, reframe statements to ask questions. This probing tactic will lead to a solution of either refining the idea or crossing it off the list. The goal is to allow all voices to be heard. These steps will foster creativity for the next project and into the future.

IMG_9948Ann Hecksher, Digital Engagement Specialist The digital landscape is ever changing. It takes forward-thinking leadership to navigate a brand in the now while planning to incorporate "what's next" in future product offerings. Dr. George Westerman of MIT examined this during his session, Leading Digital: Mastering Digital Transformation.

He examined brands such as Starbucks, Nike and Burberry, who were capturing today and tomorrow well. These brands have developed a seamless digital user experience by integrating their products into the lives of their consumers. He praised the brands' leadership to assess the current digital landscape and strategically lead where it's going.

As Westerman looks to the future, he pointed out 3D printing, robotics, artificial intelligence, sharing economics, wearables and augmented reality as offerings brands will be incorporating in the near future.

TJ Pike, Sr. Director, Digital Technology BuzzFeed has become an mainstream staple for its brand of content. In a session, Jonah Peretii, founder and CEO, shared some lessons he's learned from the company’s meteoric success.

One of the first things BuzzFeed discovered was that when online users share content, they are sharing their individual experience and the subsequent emotions. This powerful connection between content and emotion is the driving force behind the content BuzzFeed produces. Whether funny, serious or sad, the content is produced to elicit an emotional connection to their audience.

In its infancy, BuzzFeed established a successful process for content creation and distribution. While BuzzFeed cannot predict when a piece of content will go viral, it provides tools and resources to increase the potential virality. The organizations continuous process of development has been paramount to their editorial success.

Jameson Sheppard, Director, Creative

In the session Evolve or Die, Revolutionizing the Traditional Agency Model, agency executives discussed the inner dynamics of creative and digital in the agency model. Five trends emerged from the session:

Your core team isn't your core team - Well, actually they are - but you have an extended core team to lean on - one comprised of media partners, vendors, industry contacts and even influencers. These individuals are an extension of the creative and digital team, and should be considered as such.

Creative should be digital by design - Digital is often considered a risk, but simple metrics help us define success: if it isn't converting, it is not creative (or creative enough). Digital inclusion in the creative process has to take the next step beyond inclusion as campaigns should be framed from a digital perspective. Creative has to have a digital home, and digital platforms need creative to thrive. The two walk hand-in-hand.

Branded content is a safe place to experiment - Brands are incredible incubators for content. They offer a stable environment to test new things and explore ideas with creative limitations and established brand speak. Consider the types of content you might not usually be associated with, there may be a place to play with a little creativity. You never know when a Pi to the face can actually become a great piece of content.

Socialize internally - Bringing ideas to the table doesn't just happen in client meetings. As collaborators and innovators, sharing ideas is a basic support tactic for your team. Let others know what you are up to and ask questions about what they are doing. Cross-collaboration isn't just a buzz phrase, it is a proven strategy in developing strong ideas.

Agencies no longer own quality - With technology increasingly becoming available to the masses, agencies will soon no longer be able to cite quality as a differentiator. This means we need to become increasingly focused on distribution, storytelling, technology, fiscal responsibility and results. Agencies can build and deliver on a brief, a plan and a deadline, but the right strategy needs to meet the right quality. Content still has a bright future, but bringing the best ideas will become a priority over the question of quality itself.

You can follow our SXSW Mitchell Team throughout SXSW here. We'll provide a final post in the coming days to recap our SXSW coverage.

Topics: Creative, Mitchell Team, Digital